Ten killed in Finnish school shooting - gunman dies

Other News Materials 23 September 2008 22:27 (UTC +04:00)

A 22-year-old student killed 10 persons Tuesday and wounded at least two more in a school massacre in western Finland, then turned the gun on himself, dpa reported.

Officials disclosed later that police had met with the alleged suspect on the eve of the killing spree. The gunman, also a student at the school, died of his self-inflicted wounds in hospital.

The shootings took place at the trade school in Kauhajoki, about 300 kilometres north-west of Helsinki.

Police said the 22-year-old gunman, whom they identified as Matti Juhani Saari, had a licence for a 22-calibre handgun. After talking with him on Monday evening, they did not seize the weapon.

Matti Lehto, ditrector of Tampere University Hospital, south of Kauhajoki, where the gunman died, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa said the man had a gunshot wound to his head. The injury was so bad it was "impossible to operate."

Lehto said a 21-year-old female was being treated at the hospital for a gunshot wound "also to the head."

Interior Minister Anne Holmlund told reporters that police had contacted the man last week and then again on Monday over reports that he had posted a video of a shooting scene on the internet.

She said the man had received his gun permit in August. A probe into the incident was being launched, she said.

The gunman was seen wearing a ski mask and carrying a bag before the shooting, according to school employees quoted by local media. Police were planning to search his room at a nearby boarding school.

Police or authorities in Kauhajoki, which has less than 15,000 inhabitants, said the victims likely came from several parts of Finland and were shot while sitting an exam.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and other cabinet members deplored the shooting and expressed their sympathy with the victims, as did President Tarja Halonen, currently attending the UN General Assembly.

Parliament held a moment of silence as hotlines and crisis management teams were mobilized. Flags were to be lowered to half- mast on Wednesday.

The school bloodshed was the worst in the country's history and came less than a year after eight people including six students were killed at a high school in Jokela, 60 kilometres north of Helsinki.

Prior to that November 2007 incident, the 18-year-old student gunman had also posted a video on YouTube.

The incident triggered a series of threats against schools in Finland and its Nordic neighbours, while also sparking calls for tougher legislation on gun ownership. The legislation is still under review.

Online media sites and chat groups published images Tuesday taken from the video sharing site YouTube with a clip of a young man, identified as "Herra S." who said he was 22 years old and from Kauhajoki.

The clip showed him with a Walther P22 pistol at a shooting range. The clip was accompanied by a gloomy poem with the words "and suddenly there was war and the mothers, they screamed."